The Alignments; what's your interpretation?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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The Alignment 9-grid. We all know it. Law to Chaos. Good to Evil. So simple, on paper, yet a source of endless debate in practice. And well know why: It's because everyone seems to have their own interpretation of what actually defines a given alignment. Whether Lawfulness means personal discipline or respect for the existing laws of the land, for example.

So, out of curiosity, I thought I'd start this topic as a place for people to share their own personal interpretations of the alignments. Of course, I wouldn't be so crude as to not start with my own perspectives.

Lawful Good - The Two Pillars
A character of this alignment, as the creedo suggests, recognizes the existence of two pillars of morality - lawfulness and good - and considers them to be mutually supportive. Good exists to promote law and order. But law and order exist only to support and promote goodness. Law does NOT equate to Good; laws can be corrupt, can be defiled, can be WRONG. A law that is wrong must be swept aside and replaced with one that is right. A Lawful Good character prefers to attempt methods of reform that are not disruptive first, then to try more extreme methods. When a Lawful Good aids a village that has been attacked by raiders, after the initial threat is finished, he or she spends time to help the village prepare to defend itself by establishing training regimes for defenders, evacuation plans, and other orderly methods to ensure they can survive on their own when the character leaves.

Neutral Good - For the Greater Good
Spread good as far and as wide as you can. That is the creedo of the Neutral Good character. Law and order can have their place in supporting or promoting goodness, but they are not essential to it. A Neutral Good character is concerned only with doing as much good as they can, however they can, and what methods they use or forms it take matters not in the end.

Chaotic Good - Benevolent Whimsy
Liberty and freedom are all-important to the Chaotic Good character, but so is happiness, joy and good. These characters are driven entirely by their own wants and whims, but their wants and whims are fundamentally positive. These characters want others to be happy and do good things simply because it feels good to be good. Impulse and benevolence are the two driving forces of such a character's life. A Chaotic Good character is suspicious of law and order because they know how easy it can be corrupted into a force of oppression. They do not inherently oppose law - "do what thou wilt, if it harm none" - but they are always watchful for its abuse and quick to act to oppose law that stifles and oppresses.

Lawful Neutral- The Law Is All
Law Equals Good. That is the perspective of the Lawful Neutral character. Actual morality is a meaningless distinction. The laws are inherently right and must be obeyed, and those who do not obey the laws are wrong. Evil comes from rebellion and discord, good comes from obeying the law as they are written. The spirit of the law matters not, only the letter. That does not mean that laws cannot change or be revised, only that they should be considered carefully; is the problem truly with the Law, or with fallible mortals who do not adhere to the Law's purity?

True Neutral - I Don't Care
The True Neutral character is apathy, plain and simple. Not malice, for they have not that level of meanness in them. They don't want to hurt anyone, really, but they don't care enough to try and help, either. A True Neutral lives a fundamentally self-focused existence; they care about their comforts, but not enough to disrupt the existences of others in their pursuit. They just want to live their lives, and extend the same courtesy to others.

Chaotic Neutral - I Do What I Want
Selfish desire rules the heart of the Chaotic Neutral character. These individuals care only about one thing: satisfying their own personal wants and whims. They don't necessarily want to hurt anyone, and hurting people certainly isn't the goal, but if they have to hurt someone, or break a promise, or do something wrong, well, then they'll do it. A Chaotic Neutral is selfish, NOT stupid. They want to get what they want, but that doesn't mean they can't be thoughtful or patient.

Lawful Evil - Evil For A Purpose
A character of the Lawful Evil type lives by the creedo "the end justifies the means". They have a Purpose, a goal they want to achieve, and whether they view it as ultimately noble or a self-admittedly selfish one doesn't matter. All that matters is that they will do ANYthing it takes to achieve that goal. A Lawful Evil character is pragmatism incarnate. They keep their darker urges shackled to their command; they may enjoy the torturing of innocents, but they will not do so without a cause. To give in to their desires is to lose sight of their goal, to allow their means to become the ends in and of themselves.

Neutral Evil - Because It Benefits Me
Selfishness taken to its darkest interpretation is the Neutral Evil character. Such a character is out for himself (or herself, or itself) above and before all else. They do whatever they feel they can get away with and may benefit them, whether that benefit is a pragmatic one (assassinating or framing a superior to usurp their place, betraying a friend to gain a physical reward) or a personal one (raping a woman desired simply because they have coveted them), but recognize that some measure of self-control is warranted. Their goal is to state their desires, but evil is a tool to that end, not an end in and of itself.

Chaotic Evil - Because I Can
This is the darker counterpart of Chaotic Neutral. This is a character who not only lives by the creedo of doing whatever they want to do, but whose desires actively encompass wrongness. They kill and torment and defile and destroy for no greater purpose or rationale than because it is what gives them pleasure. This is a character who will burn the world, if he thinks the flames will be pretty enough. Their desires are all they live for, and their desires are inherently sick and twisted. Other Evil characters may have similar sickness in them - a love of inflicting pain, a joy in slaughter - but they do not let it rule them the way a Chaotic Evil character does.


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My take on EVIL is a little less evil than a lot of people I talk with in regards to this game. I think evil is more prevalent than people think, and is easier to work with than you'd think. Evil to me means you don't care what happens to "other people" BUT I strongly think that lots of evil characters would still have close friends and potentially self-sacrifice to help those friends, they just don't have many of those. But Evil is more of do this regardless of what stands in the way. Evil could go and "help people," why? To make them look good, to advance their career, to hope to gain favors. They view the world as things to be used to get what they want, and they are fine using good things to do it. Running a charity to get major tax write-off, and so people don't look to close at your underground business, etc...

Most the people I talk with are like, "evil has no friends", "evil just destroys and harms", "evil can't do good things". While I feel Evil is just a self-focused view and most everything else are just tools.


I agree with you on all points, but I have a tenth alignment similar to True Neutral, Primal. Primal is when you don't have enough knowledge and experience to have an actual alignment and just rely on instincts to decide what to do. Pretty much any animal qualifies for Primal, as does an infant. Of course for spells that use alignment it counts as True Neutral.


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LG - Universal Human flourishing through social order. A true paragon.
NG - What is right above all else.
CG - Freedom, unlawful justice, Rebels, benevolent free spirits.
LN - Order, stability and rules over all else. Moral notions should not distract one from duty or supplant the law.
TN - Balanced extremes, Apathy, Alien morality, pragmatism.
CN - Thieves, non-malevolent self interest over the law, values their personal freedom over all else, non-violent crazies.
LE - Politicians, Society exist to be bent for them, Stability over personal gain, Letter of the law manipulators, Malevolent Dictators, Greatest thirst for power.
NE - Priority of personal gain or the spread of corruption, the world can burn for their desires
CE - Malevolent criminals, mad psychopaths, agents of ruin, causing ruin is the desired end not a means. The greatest exemplars of this alignment would be completely selfless, seeking ruin over personal gain as an end in of itself.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My take on an alignment is that it's not just one monolithic thing. It's a schema or an archetype, by this I mean an ideological concept or label that organizes a bunch of similarly associated principles and behaviors into a digestible whole. It's the overall collection of these traits that defines whether a person belongs to a given alignment identity, not just one or two traits. As such, there can be many different ways of belonging to an alignment category.

Furthermore, I find that each alignment is on a continuum or even several. This is also why I don't define any form of Good as more purely good than the others (the same for evil). A person who is barely good enough to be Lawful Good will probably be less good than a Chaotic Good who has very strong Good tendencies that just happen to be chaos.

Generally I find the "many mini-alignments in one alignment" approach useful for being empathic with player disagreements about alignment/morality/social judgement and reaching common ground. It's also useful for comparing and contrasting different characters who may share a similar role or position but are miles apart in subtle ways.

When I speak about alignments, I generally try to speak of trends, generalities, and what is probable rather than absolutes, how a character definitely is, or what they will or will not do as a matter of fact.

Grand Lodge

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I ignore the alignment system 90% of the time.


Lawful = Authoritarian
Chaotic = Anarchic
Good = Collectivistic
Evil = Individualistic

You can have Lawful Good Nazis or Chaotic Evil Peter Pan.


It's hard (and, on a certain level, wrong) to try to encase alignments in descriptions of a few sentences (on another level, of course some description is necessary).
Starting from the fact that there are various degrees of alignment. For example, the most extreme ones are mostly represented by the Outsiders who are born as incarnations of those alignments, while mortals are far less extreme, save for some odd cases.
Also, the less you are closer to those extremes, the more you have room for variation. For example, a normal LG person can (and will, given enough pressure or whatever) behave like a CE on some occasion, but that doesn't mean that she isn't really LG or that she was, but no more from the start of that event and after that. She's a mortal, not an unyielding machine tied to strict tenets, and she can thread out of her way. Her actual alignment is defined by how she acts and thinks on average, and how she acts and thinks when she finds herself doing something she normally wouldn't (for example, regretting it or feeling like she'd do it again and would enjoy it).

Liberty's Edge

I use the alignment system as is. Yet as both a player and DM use a big dose of common sense. Paladins in my games fall only when they truly do something evil that goes against their alignment. Too strict and no one plays the classes with alignment restrictions. Too liberal and it's a free for all.


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My interpretation is that alignment wastes time and effort.

The idea that we need a thread like this one to explain what should be clear enough on the page; that means there's a problem.


It all comes down to numbers. There is no interpretation required in the alignment system.

;-)


Oncoming_Storm wrote:
I ignore the alignment system 90% of the time.

This.

I only use alignment as a creature subtype or a spell descriptor; ordinary mortals don't have one. As such, Detect Evil can pick up a disguised demon, or the aura of an evil spell, but the serial killer down the block or a typical red dragon would go undetected. It's purely a supernatural thing.


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Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

My interpretation is that alignment wastes time and effort.

The idea that we need a thread like this one to explain what should be clear enough on the page; that means there's a problem.

There is a problem, but it's in the people who don't understand those concepts in general, not in them being represented in a game.


One problem with making general groups is that there are always exceptions.

It's actually quite fascinating seeing people make existentialist critiques to a game mechanic.

I try to leave the high level philosophy out of game rules. I see alignment as something a player brings to a character and no one has any real right to say that they are playing their alignment wrong (using player in the sense of the person controlling a PC or NPC). My own list of alignments is just how I channel them.


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Astral Wanderer wrote:
Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

My interpretation is that alignment wastes time and effort.

The idea that we need a thread like this one to explain what should be clear enough on the page; that means there's a problem.

There is a problem, but it's in the people who don't understand those concepts in general, not in them being represented in a game.

In my experience, most of the problems caused by alignment ultimately stem from people taking excessively restrictive definitions of alignment and/or trying to "enforce" alignment.

Liberty's Edge

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Lawful Good: While the party is (more or less) expected to be A Champion against Evil, you have a different calling. You are expected to be The Champion Against Evil. And no, a few levels of Jesus Lite won't make up for the last three Locate City bombs you pulled.

Neutral Good: I know, I know, everything I do is for the greater good of society, yeah, I got that. I don't kill people, I only screw over those that truly deserve it, it's just... sometimes 30' per round is a little too slow, you know?

Chaotic Good: You do things for society's sake and damn the consequences. Yes. I know that. Now can you stop quoting V For Vendetta as your spells' verbal components already?!

Lawful Neutral: For the last time, you are not Judge Dredd with Magic Missiles. Stop pushing the letter of the law and obey the spirit of it; you don't need to beat the dwarf to death for "assault with intent to kill" simply because he chest-poked you once during a bar fight.

True Neutral: Eh, who cares, you're boring. Seriously, pick a side already. Sailor Moon, Doctor Doom, Joffrey Lannister, the Eighth Doctor, Robocop, Judge Dredd, Batman, Kevin Bacon, just emulate one of them. Please. I'm sick of having you resist Holy Smite, Unholy Blight, Chaos Hammer, and Order's Wrath every damn time I call for it.

Chaotic Neutral: Yes, I know. I know. "It's all about MEEEEEE" is the new "But... but I'm roleplaying my character! ;_;" for the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fourteen. And yes, your friends on Team Studly Do-Right should be ready for your sudden and inevitable betrayal once Dick Dastardly and the Really Rottens start getting their asses kicked again.

Lawful Evil: I was expecting "rule the world with a velvet-covered fist," not "do what I say or eat sword." Subtlety is key here. Sub. Tul. Tee. ...I never should have let the barbarian go lawful evil.

Neutral Evil: "What's in it for you?" You've asked that on the last four adventures. Each time the answer's been the same: "Because we ain't got an adventure without a full party your 'friends' are watching your back and you're getting filthy filthy platinum coins out of this; maybe a castle and/or a hot princess to deflower and convert to the ways of evil, too. I dunno.

Chaotic Evil: Look, I'll be honest, I'm not expecting anything more than "cartoonishly evil supervillainy" out of you. You might as well twirl your mustache while wearing your fully concealing pitch-black full plate, and why not kick some CR 1/3 puppies while going "Mwa-hahahahaha~!" every so often? And stop humming Golbez's theme every time you use bardic performance.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

True Neutral is a philosophical stance against extremes of behavior and belief, consciously selected. It generally focuses on harmony with the environment and blood ties being the important thing, providing and holding ground of your own. Druids are the exemplars of True Neutrality.

False Neutral is the apathy, uncaring attitude, or complete lack of alignment that isn't a philosophy, it's just an existence. Animals and plants and elementals are the exemplars of False Neutrality. Humans tend to waver between the two extremes depending on how smart they are.

==Aelryinth


Check out the stories by Master Arminas here, starting about the 7th entry down:

Evil parties, how they fail, and how to fix it

On paper this character is Lawful Evil.

But given how he's played - since through these stories we are privy to PC motivations as well as PC actions - he is, in my opinion, solidly Lawful Neutral.

Excepting only the incident with the prankster Fey. And one evil action doesn't typically change a PC alignment.


Alignment as a tool to describe some kind of general reality tend to fail miserably based on all sorts of problems. Where do you classify a person who lives in a society where slavery is utterly accepted and who buys and sells slaves as if they were nothing, but otherwise acts with general 'goodness'? What do you do with an Eichmann who pursues a career of horrible moral implications with the utterly banal attitude that it's just a job that someone else would do if he didn't? What about a classic Daoist who rejects anything other than the ideal of 'natural' behavior, which he adamantly refuses to define? According to a lot of persuasive moral philosophy, there is only really being moral and being amoral - and of course defining what 'moral' is can vary wildly. A "points" system is pretty weak really.


This, to me, is a far better description of alignment: http://gelvgoldenaxe.proboards.com/thread/23

Note that each alignment has 8 or more "points" and you could agree with most of them and still fall under that alignment. A "principled" (lawful good) character might not follow the "avoids lies" and yet still matches 10 of the 11 alignment descriptors.

Too bad the rest of that game's rules aren't any good.

Liberty's Edge

I still maintain the very best description of all nine alignments ever was in the AD&D 2e Player's Handbook.

The chaotic neutral character, outraged at the totally tactless (but correct) accusation of cowardice...


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zhayne wrote:
I only use alignment as a creature subtype or a spell descriptor; ordinary mortals don't have one. As such, Detect Evil can pick up a disguised demon, or the aura of an evil spell, but the serial killer down the block or a typical red dragon would go undetected. It's purely a supernatural thing.

I do the same thing. Unless there is some fundamentally-aligned link, the creature is unaligned.

As far as characterization goes, Good and Evil is very simple for me. Very little confusion there. As far as Law and Chaos goes, the most helpful idea for me is that lawful = logical and chaotic = emotional. Lawful creatures act accordingly because they should act that way, it makes the most sense. They have thought it through and the course of action that best serves their goals is chosen. Chaotic creatures act the way the feel, because they want to. They feel like helping the farmers and so they do. They feel like taking their anger out on a minion and so they do. No agenda, they just felt like it.


My main gripe is that Chaotic Neutral appears to equate to either Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil in most games. To me, that is really stupid. But then, to me, evil is selfishness on a large scale.

Many years ago, I read all these pages about alignment by James Beach, and they have proven formative to my perception of the nature and use of alignments.


The alignment system is flawed otherwise this question had been solved decades ago.

Gygax made a mistake mixing two of his main influences (The Lord Of The Rings, and Elric saga), one opposing Good to Evil, the other using Law, Chaos and Balance.
As the system is "corrupted" from its start, neither D&D iterations nor Pathfinder was able to fix it (the "most acceptable" might be the approach of Palladium).

The 9 alignments are too caricatural to describe human behavior or even fictional characters. The original D&D had only Good/Neutral/Evil and it was working perfectly well, Stormbringer/Elric RPG had Law/Balance/Chaos and it was working perfectly well. Mix both and people will still try to understand or fix it 35 years later...!


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I agree for the most part with the 1st 2 posts,

Secret Wizard wrote:

Lawful = Authoritarian

Chaotic = Anarchic
Good = Collectivistic
Evil = Individualistic

You can have Lawful Good Nazis or Chaotic Evil Peter Pan.

No, you can't have Good Nazis. If they were Good, they wouldn't be Nazis (entry on a Party registration forms notwithstanding, although even this is already a step towards Evil). Lawful, yes, but not Good. And that brings up one of the reasons that Lawful Evil is NOT necessarily the mildest form of Evil, a division of necessarily less evil than Chaotic Evil, because it naturally gains great proficiency in forcing everyone else to be Evil. Now, Chaotic Evil Peter Pan(*), on the other hand, may be a possibility.

(*) The fey character, that is, not the bus company. :-)

Also, I disagree that Good = Collectivistic and Evil = Individualistic. The latter terms in each pair are more aligned with Law and Chaos, respectively: either can be used for Good or Evil. Good = constructive and protective, whereas Evil = destructive and corruptive.

The reason people have problems with the alignment system is that most people can't even cope with a system of 1 axis, let alone 2. Remember "if you're not with us, you're against us" from just a few years ago?

Finally (for now), I would add that Lawful does not necessarily imply logical/rational. Lawful types feel obligated to follow rules without question, even when the rules are illogical (or in the Lawful Evil case, to make sure EVERYONE ELSE does so, while keeping the option to twist or outright break the rules as long as they can get away with it and not break the system).

Silver Crusade

UnArcaneElection wrote:


No, you can't have Good Nazis.

Oskar Schindler.

There are other examples but he is the most obvious.

Philosophers, theologians, drunken college students, etc have been arguing about the nature of good and evil for millennia. Its a bit optimistic to expect this thread to resolve the issue :-)


BadBird wrote:
<snip> What do you do with an Eichmann who pursues a career of horrible moral implications with the utterly banal attitude that it's just a job that someone else would do if he didn't? <snip>

Call him LE or maybe NE. Why do you ask?


pauljathome wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:
No, you can't have Good Nazis.

Oskar Schindler.

There are other examples but he is the most obvious.<snip>

Yes, but he was a bad at being a Nazi. :D

Scarab Sages

In basics:

Lawful: Orderly minded individuals that think in terms of reasons or otherwise need to feel the world is an orderly place to remain happy. Creatures of habit. Law and order. Idealize consistency. Or even just those that believe that things happen for a reason. Often a trait of those in groups.

Chaotic: Doesn't need or want consistency. Doesn't like being controlled. Whimsical. Doesn't understand others needs for rules or reasons. Things just happen. Decisions don't require reasons. Often a trait of those not in groups.

Neutral: In the middle. Might lack a preference or have a mixed approach which includes some traits of each. Only an alignment in comparison to others.

Good: Glass half full. Focuses on promoting the aspects of reality that bring joy. Forgiving. Enjoys the world as is, doesn't need to change reality to enjoy it. The world is a bright place. Evil actions are never justified.

Evil: Glass half empty. Focuses on promoting the negative aspects of reality. The world is a dark place. Would need to change the world to enjoy it. Evil actions are okay since this world is already such an evil place.

I'm talking about individuals, not organizations or actions. Evil and Good are tough, as perspective bears on them a lot, but I think at the core, the above is about right. I'm also addressing them in regard to a setting where alignments can change, as opposed to a system where someone is always one way.

I will note that some settings base alignments entirely on the end result of actions, rather than the intentions behind said actions. I am addressing alignments based on intentions and the feelings that will allow them to pursue their actions.

PS: Please ditch nazi topics. They just derail this sort of topic and function as bad examples.


To me, lawful evil can have two manifestations.

The version the OP described is perfectly valid in most circumstances.

HOWEVER...

there is Lawful evil and lawful Evil.

"Achieve my goals by any means necessary" only results in you becoming evil if the need to achieve your goals actually brushes up against the limits of moral behavior.

Obviously, most attempts at utopia result in a shift to lawful evil. But what if your goal is, say, the prevention of child abuse? If you follow the law as required by your emphasis on your Lawful alignment component over your evil component (that is, don't kill or torture people just because you think they abuse their kids; get proof and then have them arrested, and leave the horrible evil you feel they deserve to experience up to the more chaotic-aligned inmates to inflict on them), it would be easy to go your whole life as a somewhat dodgy lawful neutral. And the reason they would play up their Lawfulness over their evilness is obvious, since the "for a cause" LE types rely on their lawfulness as a shield and psychological defense mechanism.

So, their ability to be evil consistently enough to merit the LE label yet still retain a shred of psychological cover requires that they live in a society or serve and organization where it is possible to commit evil acts consistently and yet remain on the right side of the law or the organization's code.

So, if the primary component of their alignment is based on their Lawfulness, with evil as a side-product, then they are largely a product of a society that failed them by permitting the existence of the evil organization, or generally just failed to adequately establish public justice that respects the rights of the accused and the rights of the minority.

So if we want to look at Evil as the primary component of their alignment, we have to look at the primary component of evil: selfishness.

A lawful Evil character, as opposed to a Lawful evil character, is just as much the center of their personal universe as other types of evil characters; they simply don't realize it and don't think about it that way.

Instead of simply "serving" a code of some sort, they desire to possess that code, and make it a part of themselves. The ultimate example of this kind of behavior would be ascending to the status of being the personification of this code or organization (which requires they rise to its pinnacle). This is what devils do: they seek dominion over Hell and all that is within it, and they attempt to gain it by subsuming the "essence" of Hell's code into their personality.

This type of LE will toss "no True Scotsman" defenses and "In Name Only" attacks constantly, as it is association with and ultimately ownership of this code, hierarchy, or concept that they desire.

They follow the rules, codes, and precepts not because they followed them under a previous alignment and retained them after permitting a moral lapse, but because if they didn't, they could not stake a personal claim to the code or hierarchy without experiencing cognitive dissonance, which (despite what that term has become in internet political armchair quarterbacking) is an undesirable mental state.

If their code doesn't have a loophole for that situation, then they must abstain in order to maintain their possession of this code or association with this hierarchy. If they frequently rationalize their way out of this cognitive dissonance (using reasoning that is faulty, hypocritical, or at odds with the code) rather than display the discipline to stick to the code, they are probably Neutral Evil, since they are driven by a selfish desire to possess or obtain something but won't accept all the limits that come with it.

If they rationalize their way out of all or almost all limits and responsibilities of the code (via reasoning that is faulty, hypocritical, or at odds withe the code), they are Neutral Evil at best, and might even be Chaotic Evil.


But it's NOT NEEDED.

Anything you could possibly accomplish with the alignment system could also be accomplished with a paragraph "My character is like this..."

And we would get better characters, not worse ones as a result. They would be more three-dimensional, and we would be able to more easily hone in on where characters agree and disagree without getting bogged down in ethics 101.

Alignment also gives us some other issues, which come from Tolkien. The idea that, say, goblins are evil makes it ok for us to kill goblins and take their stuff.

Alignment obscures the fact that the goblins might feel the same way about us. A character who has mixed feelings about goblin killing is a more complex, and therefore more interesting character. We lose some of that when goblins are just innately evil.

And ultimately, this narrows the number and variety of stories that we can tell.


Not counting mechanical rules effects, what is a character concept that is possible with the alignment system that is NOT possible without it?

Sovereign Court

I mostly agree with the OP's take.

However - I'd say that Lawful can be either a faith in the actual law, OR holding to a strong personal code.

I think that the monk requiring a lawful alignment is the perfect example of this. A monk doesn't need to be lawful because they're part-time barristers, they're lawful because their strong personal code is a source of their abilities and ki powers.

A lawful good character would internally check their code to decide what to do. In the same situation, a chaotic good character would do what seems right without reference to any sort of code first.


I generally just ignore alignment. Most uses of it seem silly and arbitrary to me. I only use it for outsiders.

If I really were to use an alignment system, I'd actually use the one from 4th ed. The things that Alignment is supposed to cover is so broad and subjective that it could never fit nicely into those 9 categories trying to adjust the two sliders, but if we're going to do it, might as well make it easy on ourselves and use 1 slider. With fourth edition I can at least describe the alignments with a single word about what is usually most important to them. It also makes it easy to draw factions fairly easily.

Lawful Good (LG) - Justice
Good (NG,CG) - Community
Neutral (LN,TN,CN,UA) - Survival
Evil (LE,NE) - Control
Chaotic Evil (CE) - Destruction

But that's just my opinion.


Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

But it's NOT NEEDED.

Anything you could possibly accomplish with the alignment system could also be accomplished with a paragraph "My character is like this..."

And we would get better characters, not worse ones as a result. They would be more three-dimensional, and we would be able to more easily hone in on where characters agree and disagree without getting bogged down in ethics 101.

Alignment also gives us some other issues, which come from Tolkien. The idea that, say, goblins are evil makes it ok for us to kill goblins and take their stuff.

Alignment obscures the fact that the goblins might feel the same way about us. A character who has mixed feelings about goblin killing is a more complex, and therefore more interesting character. We lose some of that when goblins are just innately evil.

And ultimately, this narrows the number and variety of stories that we can tell.

A player plays Bob the Barbarian as only being interested in fighting. The player refuses to give Bob any other personality including having an alignment. I want to know how not having alignment has made Bob the Barbarian a morally complicated 3 dimensional characters that all characters would suddenly be if only they were free of the tyranny of alignment.

Scarab Sages

Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

But it's NOT NEEDED.

Anything you could possibly accomplish with the alignment system could also be accomplished with a paragraph "My character is like this..."

And we would get better characters, not worse ones as a result. They would be more three-dimensional, and we would be able to more easily hone in on where characters agree and disagree without getting bogged down in ethics 101.

Alignment also gives us some other issues, which come from Tolkien. The idea that, say, goblins are evil makes it ok for us to kill goblins and take their stuff.

Alignment obscures the fact that the goblins might feel the same way about us. A character who has mixed feelings about goblin killing is a more complex, and therefore more interesting character. We lose some of that when goblins are just innately evil.

And ultimately, this narrows the number and variety of stories that we can tell.

Ideally, GM/DM is putting players in a situation where killing the goblins is a matter of survival, non-lethal solutions have been ruled out, and inaction has also been ruled out. That would be required for a good campaign to embrace killing of sentient creatures.

One could also argue that the PCs are not aware that goblins are living creatures, that they somehow fall into the areas of creatures that don't mind if they live or die. As the GM/DM you could create a situation where they meet an intelligent and harmless goblin and learn that goblins have feelings too. Or you could leave them as mindless enemies.

I like the alignment system, I don't like how DMs/GMs often ban certain alignments, which I think creates an artificial setting. It's also important to note that motive, not action, is what dictates the alignments. Evil characters can save the world, they just don't do it for good reasons. Classic example is when a destructive evil threatens to destroy what they intend to subjugate.

I've also found that lawful good characters are rarely played as both lawful and good. Often I see Paladins played as assassins of law, rather than champions of good AND law. Paladins are a tough one for the DM/GM, as deviations from alignment need to alter the alignment to balance the class (and force them to atone), but doing so derails the campaign.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ragnarok Aeon wrote:

I generally just ignore alignment. Most uses of it seem silly and arbitrary to me. I only use it for outsiders.

By definition because this is a war game with roleplaying tacted on instead of a simulator, virtually every game rule is arbitrary to some degree.


Ragnarok Aeon wrote:

I generally just ignore alignment. Most uses of it seem silly and arbitrary to me. I only use it for outsiders.

If I really were to use an alignment system, I'd actually use the one from 4th ed. The things that Alignment is supposed to cover is so broad and subjective that it could never fit nicely into those 9 categories trying to adjust the two sliders, but if we're going to do it, might as well make it easy on ourselves and use 1 slider. With fourth edition I can at least describe the alignments with a single word about what is usually most important to them. It also makes it easy to draw factions fairly easily.

Lawful Good (LG) - Justice
Good (NG,CG) - Community
Neutral (LN,TN,CN,UA) - Survival
Evil (LE,NE) - Control
Chaotic Evil (CE) - Destruction

But that's just my opinion.

From what I know I can't dispute your opinion as being badwrongfun. But, I have a guess that the alignment system originally had an intention that is no longer core in many settings. And that is, It was a way to structure Divine Intervention in the fantasy world. An occurrence that seems to have been more common in the editions preceding 3.PF (excluding the Dark Sun setting of course).

Not just clerics and paladins could influence the presence of the Divine in the setting, though theirs was the most obvious/direct. Any PC who was faithful to her alignment and active in the spheres/domains important to her deity would naturally also be following that alignment. Divine aid in epic quests (and all quests were epic for their level) would then be much more likely for said PC.


Murdock Mudeater wrote:
Anonymous Visitor 163 576 wrote:

But it's NOT NEEDED.

Anything you could possibly accomplish with the alignment system could also be accomplished with a paragraph "My character is like this..."

And we would get better characters, not worse ones as a result. They would be more three-dimensional, and we would be able to more easily hone in on where characters agree and disagree without getting bogged down in ethics 101.

Alignment also gives us some other issues, which come from Tolkien. The idea that, say, goblins are evil makes it ok for us to kill goblins and take their stuff.

Alignment obscures the fact that the goblins might feel the same way about us. A character who has mixed feelings about goblin killing is a more complex, and therefore more interesting character. We lose some of that when goblins are just innately evil.

And ultimately, this narrows the number and variety of stories that we can tell.

Ideally, GM/DM is putting players in a situation where killing the goblins is a matter of survival, non-lethal solutions have been ruled out, and inaction has also been ruled out. That would be required for a good campaign to embrace killing of sentient creatures.

One could also argue that the PCs are not aware that goblins are living creatures, that they somehow fall into the areas of creatures that don't mind if they live or die. As the GM/DM you could create a situation where they meet an intelligent and harmless goblin and learn that goblins have feelings too. Or you could leave them as mindless enemies.

I like the alignment system, I don't like how DMs/GMs often ban certain alignments, which I think creates an artificial setting. It's also important to note that motive, not action, is what dictates the alignments. Evil characters can save the world, they just don't do it for good reasons. Classic example is when a destructive evil threatens to destroy what they intend to subjugate.

I've also found that lawful good characters are rarely played as both lawful and...

Gms don't as a rule ban certain alignment from existing, just from existing in the very small subset of the sentient beings existing in the game world that make up the players characters. There is a difference. It's not creating an 'artificial setting' to say that none of these 4-6 characters are evil.


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Having read a number of threads/sites on alignment here and elsewhere over the years, and been involved with the concept as a DM/GM for... ooh! lets say decades... I decided to compile my thoughts on alignment in a table. Sounds simple and straightforward - but it just grew and grew - and I still add to it as ideas crop up.

This thread encouraged me to share my musings and ponderings. If you like it, use it for your game. If not, that's OK too. When has alignment discussion not brought about controversy?

Some points are drawn from within these very forums, because of their insight and quality of definition. And I thank those contributors collectively.

Alignment Aspects Chart

Chart Notes:

• This chart is not a statement of truth. Nor does it reflect with accuracy how the real world acts and operates. It is a game aid to understanding alignment in fantasy gaming.
• Two continuums: Law/Chaos and Good/Evil (said to be Ethical and Moral) attempting to interact, maybe tolerate, perhaps even trying to integrate with each other.
• But this is impossible, as each mutually rejects and excludes its opposites and refutes the others. Each, with various motives, seeks to eradicate and destroy the other.
• Though I would query that 'ethical' is still dealing with good and evil, rather than Law and Chaos. There doesn't seem to be a continuum between Law and Chaos except as defined in the books of Moorcock and perhaps other writers/thinkers I'm unaware of.
• Neutral 'thinks' it is in balance between the extremes, but this is merely self-justification for not getting involved, unless it suits its purpose to do so. Or it claims it is 'at one with nature' and so acts in whatever way it likes with the justification and belief of obtaining a natural balance (aligning with the plant/animal world's approach to natural selection).
• The titles are the radical extremes of the spectrum. Even Neutral is radical, because it believes it is NOT the other alignments - seeking not to be a cause, not to be influenced, seeking not to control or be controlled, not to be morally judged.
• Most fantasy societies and their individuals tend to fall between those radical points. The points are the extreme tendencies. Characters are often closer to neutral than they believe themselves to be. To be one of the 'outer' alignments implies a commitment to a cause. Whereas Neutral implies you can do what feels 'natural' (whatever that means to them) without the pressure of having to align oneself exclusively. Some even align themselves to 'nature' as this frees them from having to align to humanoid interests. It therefore also has a pagan tendency.
• The opposite of Chaos or discord is Harmony, not Law. Order might be nearer, but it's more to do with structure and organisation than a harmonious approach to existence.
• They ALL believe they are 'right' and 'free'. That their motives are in 'their best interests' - whatever they may be; 'the best interests of humanity', 'the survival of the fittest', 'the strong were made to rule', 'there are leaders and there are followers' .
• The generally accepted idea of the meaning of Chaos is discord and disruption. This cannot fit at all with the morally 'good' aspect. Therefore to be Chaotic and Good is contradictory. Their purposes are in opposition. The destructive cannot exist side by side with the non-destructive. Thus, Chaos needs to be interpreted differently to be meaningful in the game.
• The Alignment System could be considered as being designed from a Lawful and structured perspective.
• If written from a 'Chaos' perspective, Chaos would likely be called 'Individual' and Lawful would be 'Limited' or 'Awful'.
• The chart can be used as a guide (lawful) to the GM's freedom (chaos) to identify his/her players claimed alignment.
• Some say actions are not thoughts, as if the two are separate entities.
• However the thought occurs first and the action follows. Cause and effect. The thought is the intention, and the action is the demonstration of it. Sometimes the action is withheld, but the motivation is still present. So the idea that 'I am not evil if I didn't murder him' is incorrect, especially if they were contemplating it.
• Even in law (legal), motive is required to explain the action. The action just confirms or demonstrates the thought.

Beware of players claiming to be two or more alignments, where they say they are 'both'. Their character is just mad. It is like black claiming to exist alongside white. Like darkness claiming its right to exist within light. Each will of necessity exclude the other.

To such players, apply a mental disease such as schizophrenia and have them hospitalized or 'dealt with' according to the laws of the land (lawful), or the next council meeting (chaotic).

If you're into alignments, maybe you can find a use for it in your campaign.

Grand Lodge

Galinaar wrote:

Having read a number of threads/sites on alignment here and elsewhere over the years, and been involved with the concept as a DM/GM for... ooh! lets say decades... I decided to compile my thoughts on alignment in a table. Sounds simple and straightforward - but it just grew and grew - and I still add to it as ideas crop up.

This thread encouraged me to share my musings and ponderings. If you like it, use it for your game. If not, that's OK too. When has alignment discussion not brought about controversy?

Some points are drawn from within these very forums, because of their insight and quality of definition. And I thank those contributors collectively.

Alignment Aspects Chart

** spoiler omitted **...

Well written and thought out. Thanks for sharing. The only suggestion I could offer would change "Lawful" to "Controlling/Dominating" from the Chaotic viewpoint.

Scarab Sages

RDM42 wrote:
Gms don't as a rule ban certain alignment from existing, just from existing in the very small subset of the sentient beings existing in the game world that make up the players characters. There is a difference. It's not creating an 'artificial setting' to say that none of these 4-6 characters are evil.

I was talking about the party. I think a group of individuals bound by a common cause or destination, are not inherently bound by a particular moral alignment. Forcing it often results in players that don't play the alignment, they just play the closest thing to the alignments allowed in the setting.

A "G" rated setting can still have evil characters, both player and villain.

Part of the issue is that the PC needs to role play not doing evil because it's the right thing to do, not for fear that the DM will disallow their PC in this setting. Banning alignments prevents character progression. I am assuming you play a setting where alignments can change, right?


Murdock Mudeater wrote:
RDM42 wrote:
Gms don't as a rule ban certain alignment from existing, just from existing in the very small subset of the sentient beings existing in the game world that make up the players characters. There is a difference. It's not creating an 'artificial setting' to say that none of these 4-6 characters are evil.
I was talking about the party. I think a group of individuals bound by a common cause or destination, are not inherently bound by a particular moral alignment. Forcing it often results in players that don't play the alignment, they just play the closest thing to the alignments allowed in the setting.

By the same token, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that the party should be a collection of reasonably like-minded individuals. After all, outside some sort of compelling force holding them together it's hard to see any party really enduring when they consistently offend one another's moral codes.

That said, I suspect most GMs who ban evil alignments are mainly doing so because they've had/fear problem players. Once you have a game with someone who wants to play chaotic evil so they can talk about their character raping people, and asking what they role to see if the victim "gets into it" the idea of banning evil has a certain appeal. (Thankfully, our GM didn't invite that player back)


^What that means is that banning certain character alignments won't help, but what you really need to do is ban Evil Players (and I have certainly run across some examples -- they like to label themselves as Chaotic Neutral, but actually play Chaotic Evil).


Any alignment can work well with a party and any alignment can be toxic. The difference is more of a player issue than one of alignment.

If you want to a villain, you have to OOC except the fact that you will be hanging around heroes and that you have to be their ally. You can be CE, but murdering peasants in front of the LG fighter isn't going to go over well.

Generally though, LG Paladins tend to be more toxic to the group experience than CE sociopaths.

EDIT: I for one think that any and all sexual content is not covered in the rules deliberately. That statement tends to deter individuals who want to display their crass side.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

^What that means is that banning certain character alignments won't help, but what you really need to do is ban Evil Players (and I have certainly run across some examples -- they like to label themselves as Chaotic Neutral, but actually play Chaotic Evil).

Like I said, the group kicked out that player, and that particular GM didn't ban evil alignments. But I think that kind of thing is why some GMs ban evil characters. Well, that and the fear that evil characters will betray the party/cause discord.

Really, what GMs should say instead of banning evil is "I want you all to play heroic characters, and no drama within the party."


Two takes.

1)

Spoiler:
We can apply a certain defining virtue to each end of the two axes. Lawful is exemplified by Discipline; doing what needs to be done, even if you'd rather not (conversely, not doing what shouldn't be done, even if you rather would). Chaos, on the other hand, is exemplified by Pride; doing what you want to do, even if you shouldn't (conversely, not doing what you don't want to do, even if you should). Ultimately, Lawful defines itself based on "should" above "want" while Chaos defines itself on "want" above "should". Along the other axis, we have Good represented by Honor and Evil represented by Power. Whereas Lawful/Chaos represented methods, Good and Evil represent drives; why you do what you do. Good is seeking Honor while Evil is seeking Power. Good will sacrifice Power to fulfill Honor while Evil will sacrifice Honor to fulfill Power. Lastly, we have an axis of alignment that isn't well represented in Pathfinder; Hero vs Villain. In a proper alignment system, it would be a Cube, rather than a Square such that you'd have representatives of each of the 9 alignment combos we're familiar with as Heroes, Villains, and whatever lies between. But in Pathfinder and similar systems, what we have is a bit of a slanted cross-section where LG is always in the Heroes tier, CE is always in Villains, and the rest sort of "gradate" between with a slight secondary tilt that boosts the Lawful end a little more into the Hero territory such that LN is a little bit more heroic and CN a little more villainous. So we have the following combinations

Heroes: Those fate favors to win
Villains: Those fate favors to lose
Bystanders: Those caught in between

- LG: Honor and Discipline
- LN: Discipline (Honor vs Power inconsequential)
- LE: Honor and Power
- NG: Honor (Discipline vs Pride inconsequential)
- TN: *see below*
- NE: Power (Discipline vs Pride inconsequential)
- CG: Honor and Pride
- CN: Pride (Honor vs Power inconsequential)
- CE: Pride and Power

* TN: For the TN, Honor vs Power as well as Discipline vs Pride are inconsequential. Neither extreme holds stronger sway over the TN's actions.

The CE hero, for instance, is concerned with Pride and Power. Their drive is in pursuit of Power and their Pride dictates their actions. They act as heroes because of the thrill of combat in fighting against a strong opponent. The LG villain is concerned with Honor and Discipline. Their drive is pursuit of Honor and Discipline dictates their actions. If everyone gave up all their power because they should (even if they'd rather not), there would be no more hardship or suffering so the LG villain takes it upon himself to squash the will of the world or maybe he wants to kill everyone to eliminate suffering.

2)

Spoiler:
We can equally well do away with the whole subjective terminology of the current alignments and take a more practical approach. Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic becomes Conservative/Liberal/Radical and Good/Neutral/Evil becomes Cooperative/Independent/Competitive. This gives much more clear meaning behind the alignments and relates better to what people know and understand.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Alignment is descriptive of a character's motivations and actions, not prescriptive of what a character's motivations and actions should be.

So many people seem to get this backwards.

To me:

Law represents a deep-held belief that everything has its proper place; that there's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to do things; that legitimate authorites must be respected; a sense of duty to abstract causes; a tendency toward personal organization (making one's bed in the morning, keeping a tidy desk, organizing one's filing cabinet); a preference for routine and predictablilty; belief that society as a whole is more important than individual members of that society.

Guiding principle: "Let's do this the right way."

Chaos represents a belief that all things are constantly in flux; that everyone has their own best way to do things; that authority should be respected if it's worthy of respect; alliances are personal; a tendency to just keep stuff in piles; a preference for always keeping options open; a hesitation to being pinned down to obligations; a belief that individuals are more important than society at large.

Guiding principle: "Let's do this and see what happens."

Good represents a belief that others are more important than oneself; that the weak should be protected from the strong; an innate desire to share what one has with others; a willingnes to sacrifice one's resources to benefit others; a desire to make the world a better place for everyone-- not just oneself and one's friends.

Guiding principle: "How can I help?"

Evil represents a belief that oneself is more important than anyone else; that the strong have a right to take what they want; a desire to keep what one has and to always be getting more; a willingness to sacrifice others' resources to get what one wants; a desire to make a better place for oneself and one's friends regardless of what it costs others.

Guiding principle: "What's in it for me?"

Scarab Sages

Haladir wrote:
Alignment is descriptive of a character's motivations and actions, not prescriptive of what a character's motivations and actions should be.

Correct up until the role playing component. Player is pretending to be of the PC's alignment, so the alignment is prescriptive to a certain point. Alignments can serve as additional guidelines for how to role play the character.

Obviously, if not playing the alignment right, it is suggested that the GM change the alignment to whatever is the right one. Some GMs are kind enough to give warnings related to alignment changes.


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It isn't an "either-or" situation; it's both. Alignment and the actions you take are reciprocal in nature. Alignment guides action and action, in turn, guides alignment. If your actions and alignment are in agreement, then your character is in a state of balance. However, if your actions and alignment are out of agreement, then your character is out of balance and one or the other will shift. The original alignment should be tugging on the actions to bring them back to a balance point while the actions are tugging on the alignment to bring it into agreement with the new model of action.

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